The road to becoming a professional tennis player is certainly not an easy one. It first and foremost takes talent, and then confidence, and then passion and determination – and all of these qualities can be found in a young 19-year-old Barbadian named Hayden Lewis.
So strong is his talent that Hayden won the Under-18 Caribbean Tennis Tournament in St. Lucia in 2002. At this time he was just 16 years old and defeated competitors not only from across the Caribbean, but also from the USA and South America. The following year he impressively made it to Round Sixteen in the Miami, Florida Orange Bowl Tournament. In 2003 he continued his rise in the International tennis arena and was Runner-up in the Adelaide, Australia Tennis Finals.
Then in 2004, between September and November, Hayden undertook a challenging series of tournaments where he played and did very well, achieving his world ranking and in doing so, qualifying to become a professional tennis player.
This young tennis star first picked up a racquet when he was a 7-year-old student of the St. Winifred’s School, one of island’s few primary schools equipped with tennis court facilities and a tennis coach. Though he admits to just “knocking around the ball for fun” at that time, Hayden soon became more serious and by 10 years old was entering local tournaments organized by the Barbados Tennis Association. Two years later Hayden was representing his island at regional tournaments across the Caribbean, playing both singles and doubles, and setting himself apart from the field with his fluid ground strokes and powerful forehand smashes.
“Growing up I admired the play of Pete Sampras”, he reveals, and ironically this tall, curly-haired Barbadian could quite possibly for a young version of this past World number one player.
Today Hayden lives in Australia where he trains under one of that country’s most noted tennis coaches, Peter Smith. And so what’s a typical day like in the life of aspiring pro tennis player Hayden Lewis? “We’re usually on the court by 9 in the morning, and we will do drills for about 2 hours straight. Then we’ll break for lunch and return for 2 hours of afternoon matches, where we work on points and game play, and then another 90 minutes of fitness training to close the day.”
In 2002 Hayden participated in the Davis Cup in St. Vincent. He also represented Barbados in the 2005 Davis Cup, this time hosted in Costa Rica, where his team played impressively.
“My mum has always believed in me. She tells me that I should never give up, and I really appreciate her support.”
And having been identified as one of the island’s elite athletes, much appreciated support has also been coming from government as well as from corporate Barbados. In fact, Hayden has been invited by the island to represent them in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and also has a real chance at participating in the 2008 Olympics. He relishes this opportunity, but realises that this will mean he has to compete in as many international tournaments as possible within the next 18 months, in order to gain the world ranking that will qualify him for Olympic participation.
But no hurdle seems too difficult for Hayden Lewis to clear. After all, as his friends say, “when he plays at his best, he makes everything look easy.”
Hayden, Barbados is behind you!
Article written in 2006 by Katy Gash and compliments of “Ins and Outs of Barbados” Magazine